Last Monday our class saw segments of Moneyball and South Park. I had seen Moneyball a couple of weeks prior so I was therefore familiar with the story. And I had also seen South Park’s film and some television segments. I thought both presentations were illuminating as my classmates incorporated Postmodernism and salient points into the texts. The students made analogies of baseball’s old world order and new world disorder. Reflecting old world order: Oakland Athletics’s potential payroll for 2002 was large, as they had a few great players who would be expensive to keep on their roster. They had non-creative scouts, many of them old. Their team relied on homeruns to win games. Some of the new world disorder involved Billy Beane revolutionizing how a general manager of a baseball team operates. While the New York Yankees’ payroll in 2002 was $120 million, the Oakland Athletics’ salary was $38 million. The Athletics’ simply did not have the operating cash to finance keeping expensive players on their roster; therefore, they let talented veterans such as Giambi, Damon, Isranhouse, and rookie Pena go to other teams who could afford their expensive salaries.
The new world disorder of Billy Beane and the Oakland Athletics relied on a new idea of computer statistics to help the general manager obtain baseball players that would normally be overlooked. These new players became known as “island of misfit toys.” In actuality, the new assistant general manager was Lew Podesta (he would not allow the movie makers use his namesake), a young man straight out of Harvard whose computer research was known as “sabermetrics.” He looked for categories such as on base percentage, slugging percentage, pitching statistics hitherto not used by other teams, players who were either overlooked or undervalued by their present team, and who could be obtained on the cheap by the Athletics. By using these unconventional methods, the Athletics had a great season, even though they came short of the championship. They actually set a record for most consecutive wins: 21 victories in a row.
Some of the students in the project compared the slave/master relationship to that of the players and Billy Beane. Also, they compared Billy Beane as the slave versus the owner of the Athletics as the master. This reflects Hegel’s philosophy and Modernism’s capitalistic hierarchy. Actually, during the early 1970s, an African American baseball player, Curt Flood, challenged the monopolistic major league baseball’s ownership in fighting for “free agency” which means that a player can negotiate with other teams on their own thus creating more salary and less dependency on their current team. Prior to that, the baseball player had virtually no rights. The case was eventually settled in the Supreme Court with the plaintiff, Curt Flood, winning. This changed the landscape of athletes’ rights, not just in major league baseball, but in all professional sports. Unfortunatly, Curt Flood never played again—he was blackballed from baseball.
The group also underscored the 1950s and 1960s as a fecund period in America for civil rights and feminine rights. Thus Jackie Robinson became the first African America baseball player to be accepted into the major leagues in the early 1950s. The Negro Leagues, however, had perhaps the greatest pitcher to play the game—Satchel Page—who was not accepted into the majors until he was about 50 years old. In addition, the Negro Leagues had a homerun hitter, Josh Gibson, a catcher, who never made the majors, was at least an equal to Babe Ruth. Gibson was known to hit 500 feet homeruns and actually hit over 800 home runs, surpassing Babe Ruth, known as “The Sultan of Swat.”
It is quite true that profitability and large capital is skewed in favor of large city teams such as New York, Boston, and Los Angeles; however, Major league baseball has had in place for several years what is known as “revenue sharing,” whereby the more profitable teams share their wealth with the small market teams. This is perhaps fair and more of a Marxist economic procedure. However, a perennial complaint of the teams that share their wealth is the fact that small market teams simply pocket the extra shared revenue instead of using it to obtain more expensive players, which is the rationale behind revenue sharing. It should be noted that the Brooklyn Dodgers were the first baseball team to bring in an African American, and the Los Angeles Dodgers were the first team to hire a female assistant general manager, albeit, she left the team a couple years ago to work in the front office of major league baseball’s headquarters.
The second class project was on South Park, a satirical cartoon serial TV show on Comedy Central cable television station running for 15 seasons. Actually, I had never seen South Park until the last few weeks. Ironically, I had mistakenly had an image of the television show as having gratuitous obscenity and reflecting prejudice. However, after watching a few of their television shows and their movie, in addition to listening to our classmates’ project, my opinion has greatly changed. I feel the show has intelligent commentary on current sociological and political issues, often satirizing both sides of the issues. The show is not biased. The Postmodern philosophy of Jean Baudrillard is reflected in South Park. He maintains “the postmodern world of communication saturation represents an over-intense advance of the world consciousness” (Barker 208).
The project’s members stated that the cartoons undermine the stereotypes to make us laugh at them with a lot of satire. The four boy cartoon characters are Cartman, Stan, Kyle, and Kenny. This last weekend I watched the film South Park, and although I laughed hysterically at times, I appreciated the intelligence of their messages. For instance, there was a segment whereby the Japanese were ridiculed by American activists for killing whales and dolphins. The irony was injected by alluding to Americans as “normal” for killing chickens and cows. The question it posits: Why is killing whales and dolphins worse that killing chickens and cows?
The group categorized Modern and Post Modern characteristics of South Park. Modern:
· Prioritizes words over images
· Promulgates rationalist view of world and discusses two sides of an issue.
· Explores the meaning of Cultural Texts.
· Distances the spectator from cultural objects.
· Draws from everyday life.
· Contests rationalists view of culture.
· Puts stress on visual.
· Immerses the spectator in his/her desire for cultural object.
The topics that South Park encompasses: Race, Immigration, Capitalism, Media, and Religion.
Germaine to our discussion on immigration, Dr. Wexler posited that western countries relaxed immigration policies to bring in cheap labor to “discipline” labor unions. Chapter 10 (Barker) deals with television techniques in juxtaposing the protagonist versus antagonist, and the hero versus villain characters, using script and camera shots as a means to an end. Fiske gives a very detailed account on the nuances involved. Also, the chapter stresses that TV shows, including news, have a cultural, political, and economic agenda influencing the audience. Louis Althusser’s philosophy of hegemony exemplify popular culture and television.